ACI North-East holds first meeting at Shalom House, Belfast – 6th Dec, 2014 (Recorded)

Dec 6, 2014 | 8 comments

Shalom House, 12 Cliftonville Road, Belfast

Shalom House, 12 Cliftonville Road, Belfast

The meeting room at Shalom House, Belfast was filled by over forty people on Saturday Dec 6th, 2014 – to hear Kevin Egan argue that lay people are probably best placed to begin the critical thinking necessary for the recovery of the church.

People had travelled early on a fairly miserable day from as far afield as Coleraine, Armagh, Bangor and Larne – responding warmly to Kevin’s call to examine some of the major assumptions that underlie the undeveloped state of the Irish church in the wake of decades of scandal.

Kevin took his theme from Pope Francis’ call to lay people in Evangelii Gaudium (102) to  ensure the ‘penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors’ and to remember that strictly it is clergy who are to be at the service of the people, not the other way about.

Earlier, Noel McCann had briefed participants on the history of ACI, arguing that an important window of opportunity must now be seized to impress upon Irish bishops the determination of lay people to be active members of the church who can participate creatively in its decision-making.

The Lamb of God Community at Shalom House made us all very welcome, and the person mainly responsible for organising the meeting, Martin Murray, said that ACI North-East would endeavor to play its part in the national and global conversation that is underway at grass roots level in the Catholic Church.  When asked what he thought was the greatest benefit of the meeting, he said, “Unrestricted conversation and networking (real and virtual) are proving to be the driving forces behind change in the post-modern world of the 21st century. We  shouldn’t underestimate their power to create the environment for change that most Catholics know is needed in the Church, but feel powerless to bring about.  We also have a reforming pope in the Vatican who has opened a window of opportunity for change.  How long that window will remain open remains to be seen.  But he needs and deserves both our support and active engagement.  The intention therefore would be to build on this beginning by organising more meetings in 2015 to further explore and progress the Catholic reform agenda.”


Listen to a recording of “Helping the Church to Become more Self-Critical” by Kevin Egan, Shalom House, Belfast, 6th December 2014.

Listen to a recording of “History, Aims and Objectives of the ACI” by Noel McCann (Chairman ACI), Shalom House, Belfast, 6th December 2014.


Read a transcript of “Helping the Church to Become more Self-Critical” by Kevin Egan, Shalom House, Belfast, 6th December 2014.


  1. Teresa Mee

    I find Kevin Egan’s talk really clarifying on several fronts.

    I have been for some time puzzling over the value of constant talk, prayer and reflection without accompanying action. Our talk can centre on ‘what ought to be done’ rather than on what am I/are we doing.
    Furthermore, serving people is reciprocal, we learn from the people we serve, especially the marginalised, oppressed, the suffering elderly…

    So I want to hazard a response to, ‘I wonder if they (ACI, WACI….) are acting on the assumption that the church needs to engage in internal reform before engaging in mission. Does one have to come before the other?’

    I believe they have to go hand in hand, in parallel.

    One has then to ask oneself ‘So how in practice can I/we enable this happen, how can I/we engage in both in parallel.

    Worth reflecting on together in our local ACI groups and see where it takes us.

    • soconaill

      Yes, Teresa. VOTFI’s ‘Mission’ is primarily to victims of clerical abuse – and they have been treated by the institution as outsiders, even enemies of the church. In probing that issue, and making that discovery VOTFI was both attempting ‘mission’ to the church’s victims and seeking to embody and reform the church’s relationship with them. That mission still needs doing, and was frustrated by the lack of response from the institution’s leaders. That’s definitely part of the failure of the ‘Christendom’ church model, part of its ‘death-rattle’ to use Archbishop Neary’s vivid description. We never had the resources to provide substantive support for survivors, so we were and still are an advocacy group – proving only the continuing deficiencies in the church’s outreach to those it has harmed. But that is surely valuable in itself.

  2. Martin Murray

    “A curia that is not self-critical, that does not stay up-to-date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body…It is the sickness of the rich fool who thinks he will live for all eternity, and of those who transform themselves into masters and believe themselves superior to others, rather than at their service.”
    (Pope Francis to Vatican Curia – 22nd Dec 2014)

    Either Pope Francis was listening to Kevin Egan’s talk in Shalom House on the need for self-criticism in the Church, or else Kevin Egan was listening to the Holy Spirit.

    This is all very much in line too with the ACI call for our Church to be able to ‘acknowledge its failures’ (see )

  3. Desmond Donnelly

    I meant to send this earlier, Better late… I enjoyed the meeting on Dec 6 I’m thrilled that ACI is here at last. This is The beginning of a much needed reform and I’m happy to be part of it. The Article in Iglesia Descalza is inspiring. so with God’s help Let’s go.

  4. Jean Riordan

    I’ve just heard Noel’s talk in Belfast in December online and want to congratulate him and all the ACI most warmly. We are a grass-roots lay movement too, in England and Wales, ACTA, thriving and growing and working to give a voice to the laity, and religious and clergy. Many of us keep up with the ACI and ACP websites – you can see all about us on We’re all in this together! We’re also planning how to speak up to the coming Synod. Happy New Year, blessings and prayers and love from Jean Riordan (ACTA Co-ordinator in the Birmingham diocesan area)

  5. soconaill

    Great to hear from you, Jean – and I am sure Noel will be pleased also.

    Sean O’Conaill

  6. Noel McCann

    Many thanks, Jean, for your encouragement. The credit in this case should go to Martin Murray and his ‘team’ who took the ‘bold step’ and organised this first ACI gathering in the North. Hopefully the beginning of a vibrant ACI presence in the Region.
    Very best wishes to yourself and your ACTA colleagues for the coming year.


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